Nothing against Langhorne Slim and the War Eagles, but Everything Absent or Distorted was the true headliner at the Hi-Dive for the first night of Denver's Underground Music Showcase. The recent announcement that the band will soon be hanging up their trombone and stage jumps after they release their last EP provided for a crowd intent on soaking up every single sound EAOD had to offer. After watching a two piece KaiserCartel fit just perfectly on the stage in the slot before EAOD, it was clear the 8-piece band and the 100 or so square feet of stage were going to make for a memorable collaboration. The picture below looks a lot like what the band looked like on stage, if you can just imagine fitting a drum kit, 2 keyboards, accordion, trombone, banjo, bass, and 2 or 3 guitars in with them. (update: here's a link to a photo of the band last night courtesy of the Denver Post, as well as other pics from the first day.)
(photo by Todd Roeth via eaod.net)
In all honesty, I was close to talking myself out of going to the first night of the festival, but hearing the announcement that tonight would be one of the last three shows EAOD will play, I decided it was time to suck it up and drive to Denver to finally get my chance to see them perform. The air conditioner at the Hi-Dive was no match for the fans that packed out the venue for the band's set, but once the music started, everyone seemed to forget they were watching the show from Butt Sweat City anyway. It is sets like these that make me realize my capabilities in describing music are far short of adequate, as the passion that the band put into this set, and the true artistic drive that has driven this project would be shorted a good deal by my use of buzz words and flowery language (talkin' purdy). Thus, if you live in the Denver area, all I can do is implore you to catch one of the last two shows (one of them being this Sunday). I think I'm going to have to make it just in the hopes of hearing "Gospel of Slight Rust" live at least one more time. I'm going to go ahead and be the first one to say (to the band), that maybe you guys should think about getting together next year for a little reunion at the UMS - it will be recent enough everyone will still know you, and your music will still be new, so all I'm asking is just think about it. Nonetheless, the band is finishing up its tenure the right way, and watching them perform appears a bittersweet experience for them.
Langhorne's closing set followed, his second of the night. The first had been opening up a sold out show for Josh Ritter at the Bluebird. A talented songwriter and energetic performer, he seems to be the go-to opener for some of the bigger acts around - The Avett Brothers and Lucero are just a couple that he's toured with in recent years. I recognized a number of his songs that I was familiar with, but just didn't know he was the one who sang them. I honestly have to say I was more impressed with his set than I went in expecting, and given the act he had to follow, his set was even more commendable.
(Langhorne photo credit crackerfarm)
So far, I'm very impressed with the UMS. While modeled as a SXSW style festival (in the organizers' words), it's far less obnoxious and FAR less expensive. You can walk right up any day of the festival and get a $25 pass, whereas I think a similar pass at this year's SXSW was somewhere around $750. Mind you, it is not on the same scale, nor do they pretend it is. Rather, the organizers have made an effort to build it each year, with this year's festival being the first where national touring acts have begun to take the stage. Also nice about the festival is that while there are a lot of good bands, for the most part you avoid the situation where choosing to go see one band doesn't feel like you have just chosen not to see 5 other good bands.
The first unknown (to me) that I ran across tonight was Hawks of Paradise. Only caught a couple of their songs at 3 Kings, but I think they'll be worth another chance on Sunday when they play again. Regarding Sunday, Denver, remember, 7 p.m., Sunday night, Everything Absent or Distorted at the Cartoys Stage in the Goodwill Parking Lot. I'm done talking so you can put it on your calendar right now. I expect this show will be very well attended after word spreads over the next couple of days that the band is hanging it up.